Making Sweet Music

It was a boat that led Glenn deGruy, above, to his current profession. In 1969, the Mobile native repaired a 32-foot wooden ketch sailboat in Pass Christian, Miss. The project inspired a deep interest in woodworking. “There’s just something satisfying about doing something with your hands, ” deGruy says. Since then, he has built everything from four-poster beds to entertainment centers and has worked on historic restoration projects throughout the Gulf Coast region.

An avid guitarist, deGruy also found a way to combine woodworking with his other passion: music. He spent years learning to handcraft musical instruments. “On our vacations, we would visit artists who made them, ” deGruy says. “And that’s how I learned.” Though his favorite is the guitar, he creates other stringed pieces, such as dulcimers, banjos and mandolins.

His shop in west Mobile County is home to a wood-burning stove, vintage machinery, and custom furniture pieces that repose regally on his collection of oriental rugs. Another building houses his lumber collection, including heart pine reclaimed from plantation homes. “I’ve been accumulating wood for 35 or 40 years, ” he says. “Somebody will hear that I have an interest in rosewood and turn up with a pickup load of it.” In addition, deGruy grows his own; he’s planted Japanese maples, live oaks and cypress trees around the house where he lives with his wife, Maggie, also an artist.

“It’s intriguing to build a work of art, ” says deGruy. “Then, when it’s done, there’s an art to playing it.” Every musical instrument deGruy fashions is custom made; the process takes six or seven months. After meeting with a client, he selects wood, usually spruce or redwood for the top, and cedar or mahogany for the back and sides. Recently, he began crafting a special guitar for his brother, Mike. (Click here to see “The Bay Area’s Fab 40.”) “He wants an electric guitar that will look like those M.C. Escher prints. When I get finished, it will look like it’s flying apart.”

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Kathie Farnell

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